I had intended to produce this article later this year nearer to the US Presidential elections, but recent events have prompted me to bring it forward.
The subject of today’s genealogical
journey is Pete Buttigieg (b.1982),
the openly gay presidential nomination candidate who pulled out of the race for
the White House three weeks ago.
Pete Buttigieg’s ancestry
can be neatly split into two. His paternal ancestry is almost entirely Maltese
and Mediterranean, and his maternal ancestry is Euro-American. Today we’ll look
at his mother’s ancestry. In May we’ll look at his Maltese ancestry. Almost as
soon as Pete Buttigieg entered the race for the White House genealogists began
looking into his ancestry.
Pete’s mother is a member
of the Montgomery family. Her father was Col. John Willard Montgomery
(1919-1973), a doctor in the US Medical Corps who served in Korea. The
Montgomerys were originally from Ireland and probably arrived in America in the
There are immigrants of
several other nationalities in the Montgomery line. Through them Pete has
English, German, French and Czech ancestry. One notable Czech immigrant
ancestor was Augustine Herman (c.1621-1686). He trained as a surveyor and when
he arrived in America he produced some of the most accurate maps of the
Chesapeake and Delaware Bay areas. Augustine became an influential figure in
shaping the map of the states of the USA, literally. He was instrumental in the
purchase of Staten Island for the New Amsterdam colony, which is why it’s now
in New York state and not New Jersey. He was also involved in the Anglo-Dutch
dispute over colonial land ownership which led to the creation of Delaware.
Pete Buttigieg has
slave-owning ancestors through Augustine Herman and several others. Millions of
people have slave owners as ancestors, and with each new generation that number
increases. It’s one of those facts of history that we cannot change and have to
The ancestry of Pete
Buttigieg’s maternal grandmother, Mrs. Zoe Anne Montgomery, née Neal,
(1921-2002), illustrates one of the traps in family history, the
misidentification of an ancestor. It’s easily done but a bit of extra research reveals
the truth. Mrs. Zoe Montgomery’s maternal grandmother was Anne Elizabeth
Wooley. Unfortunately, there was more than one person with that name living at
the same time. One Anne Elizabeth Wooley was the daughter of a Choctaw Native
American and has been presented as Pete Buttigieg’s ancestor on ancestry.com.
What I usually do is trace the family line down from each person of the same
name until it is obvious that they are not from the same family. In this case I
traced Choctaw Anne’s children down through the Penny family (as indicated on
her father’s will), and they are not related to Zoe Montgomery or Pete
Let’s go back to what we
know has been proven. Through Zoe Montgomery’s other grandmother, Mrs. Lena
Chase Neal (1877-1947), we can trace her ancestry to several significant
immigrant ancestors from England. The most significant of these gives Pete some
Mayflower Pilgrim ancestry.
Last year a highly
respected genealogist, Christopher C. Child, discovered that DNA from Pete’s
ancestor John Sprague proved that Sprague was the illegitimate son of Samuel
Fuller, the son of Mayflower Pilgrims. What a pity that Pete dropped out of the
Presidential race, because it would have been perfect for a Mayflower
descendant to be US President in this 400th anniversary year of the Mayflower
voyage. George W. Bush was the last Mayflower President. I’ll be listing some
lgbt Mayflower descendants in September.
Another colonial settler
was Peter Worden (c.1570-before 1639), an “average” colonial settler who
arrived in America in the 1630s. Although he came from a family with small
estates in Lancashire, England, and held several public and judicial posts in
the colony he did not have as much impact on American history as some other
colonists. Peter Worden’s significance comes from his position as a “gateway
ancestor”. This is an individual whose ancestry is well documented and usually has
proven royal or noble blood.
Through his mother, Isabel
Worthington, Peter Worden is descended from King William I of Scotland
(1142-1214). On the way the line of descent coincides with my own with both
Peter Worden (and, therefore, Pete Buttigieg) and myself having Sir Richard
Bayley Sherborne (1382-1440) as a common ancestor. Some of Pete Buttigieg’s
relatives through Peter Worden include the Fonda acting dynasty, Bing Crosby,
President Rutherford B. Hayes and President Calvin Coolidge. Lgbt relatives who
are also descended from Sir Richard Bayley Sherborne include Cynthia Nixon,
Divine, Rupert Everett, Michael Stipe and Jodie Foster.
I’m always on the lookout
for unusual stories in people’s ancestry and the Worthingtons provide one of
the more unusual. The Worthington coat of arms features three dung forks!
Here’s why. “Worthing” is an old regional dialect word for dung and, as I’ve
explained in my heraldry articles, puns on family names have influenced the
design of many coats of arms. This stems from the times when few people were
literate and needed something visual to help them remember whose arms were
whose – a bit like corporate logos.
Pete Buttigieg may have a
coat of arms which also illustrates a pun on his family name. Although I’ve not
been able to verify that Pete has the right to a coat of arms, there are
records of distant members of his family adopting a shield showing a chicken
standing on a barrel. The Latin word for barrel is “buttis”, and the Maltese
word for chicken is “tigieg”. Put them together and you get “buttis-tigieg”.
Buttigieg actually means “owner of chickens” and its ultimate origin is Arabic,
which gives a clue to the family’s own origins.
And that’s just a sample
of Pete Buttigieg’s maternal ancestry. I’ll look into he father’s ancestry in
May when some remarkable surprises will be revealed, including more royal
blood, the Emirs of Tunis, and the Borgias.